Jennifer Kelly has quickly begun to make a name for herself in the world of horse racing. She has been traveling from her home state of Alabama to places like Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore and Audley Farm in Virginia to promote her new book, Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown. Kelly’s professional background is in teaching college level writing. She has taken classes in subjects like literature, psychology, and history. Kelly realized through these classes that she has much more appreciation for things once she knows it’s origins. It is no surprise, then, that Kelly was enchanted with American horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner.
“He started out as this enigma, like an image that appears to be one thing on the surface, but, if one gets closer, the image truly is something else, composed of elements that one might not expect,” Kelly said of Triple Crown winner Sir Barton. “As a longtime racing fan, I thought the story I read in any of my books on the Triple Crown was too simple, too pat, and, once I started doing the research, I found that his life and his career were more complex”. The history surrounding the great Sir Barton captivated Jennifer Kelly at just the right time. She realized that no one had written a book solely about Sir Barton around the same time she was looking to take a different professional avenue.
“I knew the 100th anniversary of the Triple Crown was coming and, upon doing research, I saw that no one had written a book about Sir Barton," Kelly explained. "I decided that I would take on the project of writing the first book on America’s first Triple Crown winner.”
“In the summer of 2013, I was looking to make a career change. My kids were getting older and we needed more flexibility for our family. I have always been an avid writer and reader so I knew that transitioning to a writer career would be a great avenue for me”.
[Video: A short video about Sir Barton's life and career]
Though writing a book is a long and trying process, Kelly was ready to share the story of the horse she had come to love. She began the research and writing process in July of 2013. She dedicated years of her life to the life of Sir Barton and the rich history surrounding him. Kelly finished writing the manuscript in October of 2017 and then took another six months to submit her manuscript for publication. The publication process was completed in December of 2018 and her book was released in April of 2019.
It has been just three months since Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown was released, but Kelly and her book are already making waves in the horse racing community. Promoting the book has allowed this long time fan of racing to meet some of her favorite people in the industry. “I’ve met Mike Smith, Jimmy Barnes, Caton Bredar, Steve Byk, Ed Bowen, Jamie Nicholson, Milt Toby, Todd Pletcher, and Gabby Gaudet so far and each time I’ve felt like a giddy teenage girl meeting the Beatles (or insert your equivalent celebrity),” Kelly described. “All of them have been warm and great to talk to and none of them seem to think I’m as nerdy as I feel”. “I have had a blast and I hope they all know just how much I appreciate their time and their kindness.”
Jennifer Kelly has been a fan of the sport of horse racing ever since her teacher read The Black Stallion to her fifth grade class. Becoming a part of the industry as an author and historian is what Kelly’s dreams are made of. Preserving the history of horse racing is something that she is passionate about.
“Preserving the history of the sport gives us a greater understanding not just of how far we’ve come but also where our traditions originate,” Kelly explained. “The more you know as a fan, the more you can see what previous generations saw, loved, and appreciated about the sport, a love that often is passed down through families. When we lose the history, we lose the connection to where this love comes from”.
The history of Sir Barton is particularly important. The Triple Crown is the most coveted accomplishment in horse racing and Sir Barton was the first horse to ever sweep all three races in the crown. “We spend quite a bit of time each year talking about the Triple Crown, the horses that have won it, and the ones that could win it. We have our favorite horses and, so often, those favorites have had great performances in the Triple Crown, either winning one of the races that comprise it or completing the triple,” Jennifer Kelly said.
“Since so much of racing considers the classics and winning them the goal of their careers, celebrating the first horse to do it, the pioneer Sir Barton, is also a celebration of what makes racing great. Celebrating him is also celebrating the passion, the love, and the hard work that each breeder, owner, trainer, and jockey put into their time with their promising classic horses.” The 100th anniversary of Sir Barton becoming the 1st horse to win the Triple Crown is today, June 11th, 2019. Celebrating him, as Kelly said, is celebrating horse racing. Jennifer Kelly’s passion for Sir Barton is contagious. It is hard to not feel a connection to this horse when she speaks so highly of him and his accomplishments. She draws attention to the horse and the sport of horse racing as she makes her way across the country with “Little Sir Barton” by her side, speaking at events and signing copies of her book.